Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Country Living Grain Mill Review

Country Living Grain Mill Review

A few articles ago I reviewed several products from Pleasant Hill Grains designed for extended long-term grain storage. I am admittedly a big steel cut oat eater and a bit of a snob about the ingredient quality, grind and preparation of my preferred breakfast cereal. One of the things I realized through that article was that I was drastically overpaying for oats and other grains by the pound versus buying bulk and also that the flavor of fresh cut or milled grains is second to none.
Grains are wonderful extended food storage products which retain almost all their nutritional value if the grains are left intact/un-ground. After grinding the flavor deteriorates quickly, however for most households a coffee grinder or food processor is the only way to process bulk whole grains.  The best flavor from grains though is from grinding and this is where Country Living Grain Mill is so important to the prepper with a couple hundred pounds of grain or just the guy who wants a great bowl of cereal each morning.

Jack Jenkins founded Country Living Mills due solely to his own personal quest to grind his own grain.  Like many he believed stone grinding was the best and purchased a very expensive, heavy and loud electric mill with stone grinding plates and the results were far less than optimal. Through that brief ownership he learned and experimented with other grinding plates. 
His final design featured dual carbon steel cutting and grinding plates/burrs which far exceeded the grinding capacity of other plates and designs with more consistent grinds and less effort - the Country Living Mill was born.  Commercially “burr ground” grains and coffee are considered the most consistent on the market but Jack was the first to offer this for home grinders.
There is something very special about an entire product these days with all metal construction, quality and feel.  After helping your UPS driver straighten up his back, the heft and design of the Country Living Mill takes you back to the 1900s age of steel when products were heavy and build for several lifetimes of use.  Recently I toured Hornady ammunition manufacturing and saw first hand how machines build right will still be in full production use almost a 60 years later and this is the quality and construction you will in the Country Living Mill.
This build-to-last for generations quality is exactly what I want for a mill I use daily each morning and will use when I have to process my bulk grain storage should “it hit the fan”.  The Country Living Grain Mill represents the ultimate in strength and durability, and the fit and finish are outstanding. The clean designed frame and hopper is made from heavy cast aluminum and coated with a super tough powder coat paint providing a simple mountable and stable grinding platform which will look good and last though loads of hard use.

A comfortable 7” hardwood handle gives you plenty of leverage to turn the cast iron operating flywheel which is also v-grooved should you decide you want to set up belt driven electric motor operation.  
The operating flywheel is matted to a standard .6” steel drive shaft and .174” key for flexibility in switching v-belt pulleys as needed. The mill has double sealed industrial bearing which are widely spaced to prevent shaft run out and minimize wear even during long motor driven grinding sessions. The remainder of the mill components is also built for generations of hard use with the two huge 5” carbon steel grinder plates/burrs, cast aluminum coarseness adjustment knob, four washers, a shaft key and a steel grain auger.

One of the things you will notice when turning the grinder is how smooth it operates and that the plates are perfectly aligned and matted together.  This all adds up to a smoother and easier operating mill which delivers more consistent grind quality

Use of the mill could not be easier. Secure the mill to a work table via the four holes in the frame or pick up a mounting plate as I did which allows the mill to be clamped to any heavy stable tabletop or counter surface.  Once the mill is secured, add the amount of whole grain you need in the 4.5 cup hopper and start turning the wheel. 
Generally I start with a coarse grind setting and turn the crank a couple times and assure I have the grind I am looking for and then start cranking away.  Any grain which is too coarsely ground can be dumped back in the hopper and reground.  I am typically able to mill 1 cup of wheat flour in about 1.5 minutes, however I can crank through my 1 cup of rough cut oats in about 15-20 seconds. The morning’s coffee takes only about 30 seconds.  We had a party where we needed about thirty pepper encrusted burgers which requires a lot of pepper; the mill cranked out the required 1 cup of fresh ground pepper in no time.  Any dry food can be ground including herbs.
The Country Living Mill comes with a steel spring grain auger, however if you plan on grinding corn, beans, or coffee (the coffee grind is fantastic) you will want to pick up the optional stainless steel auger.  From my perspective I would highly recommend the tabletop clamp mount and steel corn auger as accessories as well as the $30 Just-In-Case repair kit with the essential parts most likely to eventually wear out.

The significant advantages to the Country Living Mill burr grinder plates are the delivery of a very consistent grind quality and a low temperature grind when compared to other grind methods.  Obviously a consistent grind is preferred in any circumstance, however many people do not think about the heat generated by other grinding methods.  A hot grind cooks out nutrients; the cool carbon steel burr grind of the Country Living Mill preserves nutrient quality.

I have talked about grinding a lot of different and different flavored items, so how easy are the mill to clean?  Easy.  Spin off the grind adjustment knob, remove the two washers and outer grinding plate and then just brush or blow out the plate and reservoir and re-assemble.  All this can be done in about two minutes, however unless I have ground pepper or coffee or plan to not use it for a while, I rarely worry about cleaning out the tablespoon of grains left in the grinder. That tablespoon of oats added to your ground bread flour will not affect a recipe or conversely will not affect your morning cereal.

I have used other mills in the past, used coffee grinders and food processors also to grind grain however the Country Living Mill is absolutely the best. Other mills and methods used have required second passes for fine grinds, or deliver consistent grinds, and heat the grains; the Country Living Mill does not. 

The Country Living Mill is not some pretty Stepford Wife kitchen accessory; it is commercial quality for the home and could easily be used for light production work. Every mill is even grind tested before it leaves the factory, however if you have a wheat allergy, they can provide one which has had not contact with the wheat.

Many will be surprised by the $429 price, however if you have priced industrial grade kitchen appliances these days an heirloom all metal grinder which can operate whether the light are on or off is a great deal.  In fact if the lights are off, it is the only grinder which I would consider owning.  If you are considering packing away buckets of long-term grain storage from Pleasant Hill Grains, a Country Living Mill retailer or another supplier, you need a grain mill and you need one which will actually work for years and year and year and the Country Living Mill in my opinion is the best of the best.
13.5" tall
12" wide
10" deep, excluding handle.
Weight 17.7 lbs.
Flywheel diameter 12-1/4".
Hopper capacity is 4.5 cups.
Lifetime Warranty in manual operation
Free Shipping to 48 States

CORN & BEAN AUGER - $36.95

Country Living Mills

Pleasant Hill Grains

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